The Bushfire Royal Commission report has now been tabled in Parliament by the Federal Government. It unequivocally acknowledges what bushfire inquiry reports from the Climate Council, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA) and numerous others this year have already stated: Climate change fuelled the Black Summer bushfire season, and we have entered into an era of severe consequences for our inaction on climate change.
The report recognises that we need to act on multiple fronts, including government measures on energy and the environment. The implication of this could not be any clearer: stronger action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental part of addressing Australia’s escalating disaster risks.
The report outlines 80 recommendations that cover a broad spectrum of issues: from understanding climate risks and boosting firefighting capability, to wildlife protection and leadership of first nations.
The Federal Government must adopt every single one of the recommendations in this report and, importantly, act on the root cause of worsening bushfires in Australia by taking urgent steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Through our extensive evidence-based submission, expert witness testimony and an open letter signed by more than 9,000 Climate Council supporters, we urged the Commission to strengthen the call for climate action as one of the central pillars of its recommendations.
We also provided the Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan to the Commissioners – developed by Emergency Leaders for Climate Action in collaboration with hundreds of community leaders, scientists, firefighters, medics and other experts.
And it’s clear now that we, and the many other determined organisations and individuals across the country, have had a big impact. So big that our plan is cited as a reference in the findings, and the word ‘climate’ appears in the report a total of 90 times.
The Royal Commission has delivered a strong message to our Federal Politicians, and now we must ensure they act on the recommendations outlined in the report.
“The Federal Government absolutely has to act on the root cause of worsening bushfires in Australia, and take urgent steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This clearly means no new coal or gas, and a rapid transition to renewable energy,” Greg Mullins, Climate Councillor, founder of Emergency Leaders for Climate Action and former Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW.
What are the key recommendations?
Many of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission are targeted at helping communities prepare, adapt and build resilience to climate change.
Importantly, the report compels the Federal Government to tackle the root cause of escalating bushfire risk: climate change. This means no new fossil fuels (coal, oil or gas), and a rapid transition to renewable energy.
Key points from the report include:
- Climate change impacts: The Royal Commission acknowledges that climate change fuelled the Black Summer bushfires, and that more dangerous weather conditions for Australia are likely to occur throughout the country in the future due to a warming climate: “As the events of the 2019-2020 bushfire season show, what was unprecedented is now our future.”
- Climate change mitigation: It is impossible to read this report without recognising that stronger action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental part of addressing our escalating disaster risks: “Warming beyond the next 20 to 30 years is largely dependent on the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions.”
- Hazard reduction: The report takes a nuanced view of hazard reduction activities, acknowledging that while they can reduce risk, their value is diminished in extreme weather fuelled by climate change. It states unequivocally that hazard reduction is not a panacea: “We heard many perspectives from public submissions that describe prescribed burning as, in effect, a panacea – a solution to bushfire risk. It is not.”
- The rising costs of extreme weather and climate change: “Direct and indirect disaster costs in Australia are projected to increase from an average of $18.2 billion per year to $39 billion per year by 2050, even without accounting for climate change. The costs associated with natural disasters include significant, and often long-term, social impacts, including death and injury and impacts on employment, education, community networks, health and wellbeing.”
- Other recommendations: There are many other findings and recommendations, including upgrading our firefighting capabilities, better coordination between agencies, consistent public information and warnings, and prioritising mental health.
- Accountability: The Royal Commission recommends that “the Australian Government establishes accountability and assurance mechanisms to promote continuous improvement and best practice in natural disaster arrangements.” It is accountable to Australians for doing so and should accept and implement all of the relevant recommendations.
We will be watching closely and applying the necessary pressure to ensure the Federal Government implements all recommendations from the Royal Commission.
Emergency Leaders for Climate Action have just launched an accountability tracker; highlighting ten key recommendations from the report, to publicly track how long it takes for each of these recommendations to be implemented.
We’ll use the accountability tracker to make sure the Federal Government feels the heat: drawing media, political and public attention to exactly how long it takes for this Government to implement the Royal Commission recommendations.
And we’ll also be upping the pressure behind the scenes – briefing decision-makers, journalists, and the Australian people on what the Federal Government needs to do to reduce emissions and protect our communities.
Together, we must fight to make sure the Federal Government implements the recommendations from the Bushfire Royal Commission, and acts urgently to cut our emissions. Can you join our campaign to hold the Federal Government accountable by chipping in today?